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Miami drops home opener to Wilmington

For The Miami Student

Published: Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 17:11

The Miami University men’s basketball (0-4) team faltered down the stretch and fell to Division-III Wilmington University (1-1) 65-63 in its first game at Millett Hall.

It is just the second time in the last 16 years that a Division-I school lost to a Division-III school.

The Hawks’ carried a 12-point lead with just less than nine minutes to go when the Fighting Quakers went on an 18-4 run to put the game away.

Senior forward Will Felder scored 19 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. Senior guard Quinten Rollins also performed well, matching career highs with 18 points and seven boards.

The star of the game was Wilmington’s junior forward R.J. Leppert, who finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds. He instigated the key play of the game, as he rebounded his own missed free-throw with nine seconds left on the clock with Wilmington leading 63-62. He was immediately fouled and made good the best of his chance at redemption, sinking both of his attempts.

It was the first time the ’Hawks have ever lost to the Quakers in their 14 meetings.

Head coach John Cooper said his team is not in a good place right now.

“They’re feeling low,” Cooper said. “Heck, I don’t feel good. So what do you do? Do you moan, groan, pout, and tuck your head, or do you … go to work and figure it out?”  

Miami broke out of the gates early, scoring eight unanswered points. The run was capped by a fast-break which ended with a Felder slam, forcing a Wilmington timeout just under three minutes into the game. Felder was a force inside throughout the first half, making all four of his attempts to lead the ’Hawks in scoring with 11 points.  

Despite Miami’s fast start, the game was far from over, as Wilmington used the three-ball to keep within reach of the ’Hawks in the first half. Wilmington hit eight of its 17 attempts from beyond the three-point arc, while MU shot just 2-8 from three point range in the opening period.

Miami led for the entirety of the first half until Wilmington’s Ben McGriff knotted the game at 39 with a 3-pointer with 1:31 remaining. After Rollins finished a fast-break with a finger roll, the ’Hawks went into the locker room with a slim, two point lead, 41-39.

The Quakers took their first lead of the game in the second half 42-41 on a three pointer by Leppert. The teams went back and forth over the next few minutes, as both squads struggled to put the ball in the basket. Two free throws by Felder with 9:27 remaining in the game gave MU their first double-digit lead of the second half, 57-47.

Wilmington refused to go away quietly, fighting back to pull the game within two points on a three pointer by Leppert with 2:21 remaining. The Quakers then took the lead 63-62 on a three by Ransome. After Leppert made two free-throws, a last second three by Felder clanged off the rim.

The disparity between the ’Hawks and their opponents in three-point shooting has been a startling trend in this young season. They finished the game 3-20 from three, while the Quakers finished 14-27. MU is shooting only 21 percent from three while allowing its opponents to shoot 49 percent from that range.

“We haven’t shot the ball very well from three,” Cooper said. “I think that Reggie [Johnson] and Blake [McLimans] are pressing. I’m not sure that they’re taking great shots the past two games.”

Both McLimans and Johnson were held to single-digits in points.

Rollins said he is concerned about the RedHawks’ ability to defend the three.

“At this point it’s definitely a concern,” Rollins said. “It’s just doing what we can control. We’re not closing, we’re closing out short … on their three-point shooters. We have to have long close-outs and force them to drive.”

Defending the three is one of the many things that RedHawks will work on in practice. Luckily for them, they have a lot of time to get things right. The ’Hawks next game, against Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne (5-2) is not until Dec. 3.

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